The south-east of Western Australia is home to some of the country's most stunning coastline. Its beaches, complete with great surf breaks, are world class, and windsurfers and board-riders flock to the area.
Creamy coloured beaches lead to the Southern Ocean which offers snorkelling and diving among sea-dragons and in shipwrecks often in the company of sea-lions.
Around Esperance there are rugged national parks, farms offering friendly accommodation and the Recherche Archipelago, known as the Bay of Isles. It is dotted with 105 islands, including the eco-tourism development of Woody Island, a fine way to get close to nature.
Woody Island is around 1.5km long and covers 240ha of nature reserve vested in the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management. Just five hectares has been developed for Mackenzie's Island Cruises eco-stays.
The island is reached with Bay of Isles Wildlife Cruises which run half-day trips every day and full-day trips twice a week from September to April. It has four clearly marked bushwalks and transport is by foot. Climate is mild-temperate ranging from low 20°C; in September/October to mid-30degC; in January/February.
Like Africa, the Bay of Isles has its own "big five", too. There are dolphins, two types of seal (Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals), Cape Barren geese and the white-breasted sea eagle. Being on the lookout for them is loads of fun.
Mackenzie's is a family company which has been operating in the area for more than 50 years. Their luxurious MV Seabreeze II is a 24-metre purpose-built catamaran which carries 164 passengers. It has three viewing levels, including a top deck with 360deg; views. There is a full commentary during wildlife viewing.
Half-day cruises run between 9am and 12.30pm. A highlight is an hour's stay on Woody Island for morning tea at the Woody Island Visitor Centre. You can have a half-hour guided walk to Twiggy's Landing or a half-hour glass-bottom boat tour of Shearwater Bay between September and April, weather permitting.
Woody Island has cosy cabins amongst untouched nature at its best. There is a choice of Safari Huts, Adventure Huts, tents or campsites surrounded by eucalypts and overlooking Shearwater Bay. Imagine waking to the lap of the ocean and a symphony of birdsong.
Safari Huts are on raised wooden platforms. They have a deck with table and chairs, queen bed, double bunk and trundle bed. They sleep up to five and can be linen-serviced.
Adventure Huts are on the ground, so are ideal for families with small children. They have double bed and bunk, single bunk, table and chairs and sleep up to five.
Tents come in large, medium and small and are located close to the Camper's Kitchen. Each has foam mattresses but you need to provide other bedding.
Camp sites are in shady spots throughout the general camping area and are designed for those wanting to take their own tent and equipment.
The Visitor Centre has a kiosk/café, two deck areas with seating, caretaker's quarters and serves breakfast and evening meals.
The Camper's Kitchen is fully equipped, and there are three ablutions blocks. There is a children's playground with slide, swings and climbing apparatus.
Near Esperance in Western Australia.
Full day Woody Island tours are $92 for adults, $39 for children and $236 for a family of four. It includes scenic tour, glass bottom boat tour, barbecue lunch and snorkelling equipment. Half-day tours are $65, $24 and $154. Scenic tour, morning tea, snorkelling equipment and guided bush walk are included.
Overnight camping is $37 for tent hire per couple. Safari Huts are $97 a double a night and $118 for a family of four.
Camping and full-day tours are available only between September and April. Half-day tours are available year round.
Prices quoted correct at May 10, 2007
Mackenzie's Island Cruises
71 The Esplanade
Esperance WA 6450
Ph: (08) 9071 5757
Fax: (08) 9071 4993